September 20, 2006

Public Water to Springs on Tap

As the old saying goes, the check is in the mail. And when the Suffolk County Water Authority gets it, work will commence on the long aborning project to bring public water to sections of Springs. According to SCWA spokesman Padraic South, the agency hopes to begin work next month on a two phase main with a $1.4 million price tag.

Two neighborhoods in Springs will see pipelines laid over the course of six to eight weeks, barring early frost. The first section will comprise a connection between the existing public water on Springs Fireplace Road near Copeces Lane down to School Street. The town/school district rec center project was the driving force behind the project. In designing the new building, officials determined the cost of bringing public water to the site would actually be less than constructing a mandated fire suppression system.

Traditionally, once 50 percent of the residents in a neighborhood express willingness to connect to public water mains, SCWA will move forward with a project. With the first section of the water main, the town offered to pay that up front 50 percent ($84,172) and recapture hook up fees from residents along the main. It will cost customers $1913 to sign on.

Resident requests spurred the second phase, according to South. Homeowners north of School Street along Springs Fireplace Road down to the end of Gerard Drive asked for the main.

The notion of public water in Springs has long been a subject of controversy. Supporters urged the initiative, arguing benefits for firefighting purposes, as well as improved water quality at Springs School where ancient wells have been problematic. Several years ago during a hearing on the notion Larry Penny, town director of Natural Resources and co-author of a 1987 town-wide water management plan, reminded that the idea of bringing public water to Springs dates back some 20 years. The '87 study notes the density of development in the hamlet as well as the potential effects of a landfill plume as arguments in favor of public water.

Opponents meanwhile have voiced an oft-referenced philosophy: public water leads to increased development.

The recently updated Town Comprehensive Plan called for a full-scale environmental review of the concept of laying water mains through the hamlet. While the notion of conducting the study was discussed by the town board, it never did happen. Instead, the Comprehensive Plan enacted wholesale upzonings across the town, including Springs. And a revised philosophy came to the fore. The upzonings are sufficient protection against over development in the hamlet, rendering a full-scale environmental study moot.

"I think we're covered," Supervisor Bill McGintee said this week. He reminded that both outside consultants that worked on the Comprehensive Plan initiative opined that once zoning was put in place, Springs would be protected from over development. The town still plans to move forward with an environmental study of other Springs areas, like Three Mile Harbor Road, but it will be, McGintee said, "narrowly scoped."

The supervisor emphasized that connecting to the water main is a matter of individual choice. "Nobody's being forced to hook up to public water."

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